BOTSWANA: UB closes indefinitely

univesity_of_botswana.jpgThe University of Botswana (UB) has been closed indefinitely after four days of class boycotts and violence. The violence was directed at fellow students who did not want to participate in the boycotts.

The closure came moments after all members of the Student
Representative Council (SRC) were suspended with immediate effect from
the school at around 11am.

A memorandum to the students from the Vice Chancellor, Professor Bojosi
Otlhogile said the university was closed due to the violence.
"Following the violence that was experienced on campus over the past
days, you are hereby informed that campuses will be closed with
immediate effect. You should all vacate the campuses by 13.30 hours
today," the memo read.

One student, who refused to be named, said that yesterday morning, they
were prevented from attending lessons by fellow students.

"The students who are at the forefront of the boycotts ordered us out
of classes again this morning. Some students who stay on campus went to
their rooms," she said.

The students behind the boycott went to the halls of residence and
ordered everybody out. "Those who refused tried hiding themselves in
their closets as the windows to their rooms were broken," she said. "I
had no time to pack my clothes and I just upped and left because it is
safer to be outside than being inside the university right now," she
said as SSG vehicles arrived at the institution to check that all the
students have vacated the university.

The Minister of Education, Jacob Nkate, stated that he was supposed to
have met with the Student Representative Council body at 11am
yesterday. "They did not come for the scheduled meeting. The meeting
was arranged by the permanent secretary who they have been
communicating with," the minister said. He explained that he has been
in consultation with the management of the university and they agreed
that because of the violence, the beatings, the vandalism of the
university properties the institution should be closed.

The education minister stated that the ministry’s position still stands
on the grievances of the students. "There is no chance of changing our
position unless we are slapped with a court order and I will be
surprised," Nkate said.

The SRC president Kagiso Thutlwe said he was not aware of what went on
at the institution as he vacated the campus immediately after receiving
the letter suspending him from the university. "I was not at school at
that time. I am not aware of any vandalism done by the students. We did
not meet with the minister because instead of preparing for the
meeting, we had already vacated the university building," Thutlwe said.

The students have been boycotting classes since Monday to protest
against the ministry’s decision to stop paying allowances to those who
repeat their courses. The students unsuccessfully applied for a stay of
execution to the High Court late last month.

The aggrieved students believe that they are entitled to their food
allowances, which, since the start of semestarisation in 2004, they
wanted to spend as they wish, on or off campus. The students said that
the ministry should have liaised with the university to monitor their
movements on or off campus.

"The ministry has refused to acknowledge the changes and they are
telling us that they will be guided by the changes made at the
beginning of the UB year last August. They never communicated that with
the students or the UB management. All we are saying is that the
students should be given the money that they are entitled to," the SRC
president said in an earlier interview.

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